Biden says visit is to ‘keep the peace’ ahead of Belfast arrival

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Joe Biden has said he will use his visit to the island of Ireland to “keep the peace”, as he left the US for his four-day trip.

The US president invoked the importance of the Good Friday Agreement and the recently negotiated Windsor Framework as he prepared to set off for Northern Ireland.

Mr Biden will arrive later on Tuesday as he begins a visit marking the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

His son Hunter Biden and sister Valerie Biden Owen are believed to be accompanying him for the trip.

Mr Biden, speaking to reporters before his departure, said that his top priority was to “make sure the Irish accords and the Windsor Agreement stay in place, keep the peace”.

“That’s the main thing,” he said.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will meet Mr Biden when Air Force One touches down in Northern Ireland on Tuesday evening.

The two leaders will also hold a meeting on Wednesday before Mr Biden gives an address at Ulster University’s new £350 million Belfast campus.

Mr Sunak will not attend Mr Biden’s keynote speech, with Downing Street on Tuesday denying that the engagement between the pair would be “low-key”.

Rishi Sunak visit to US
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will meet President Joe Biden when he arrives in Northern Ireland (Leon Neal/PA)

However, the Stormont powersharing Assembly, which was established in the peace deal, is not currently operating due to a protest over post-Brexit trading arrangements by the DUP, the largest unionist party in Northern Ireland.

It is expected that Mr Biden will hold a meeting with Northern Ireland’s main political parties before the Ulster University talk.

A major security operation will be in place for Mr Biden’s visit, with more than 300 officers from the rest of the UK being drafted into Northern Ireland.

The PSNI has also warned of significant traffic disruption in Belfast during the presidential visit, with a number of roads in the city centre already closed.

Michael D Higgins
Irish President Michael D Higgins is expected to meet President Joe Biden in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

The president has traced his ancestral roots to the area and he will tour Carlingford Castle in the county before spending the night in Dublin.

He is then expected to visit Irish President Michael D Higgins on Thursday.

It has been announced that Dublin’s Phoenix Park will be closed for 24 hours from 5pm on Wednesday to facilitate the visit.

Mr Higgins’ official residence is within the park’s grounds.

The White House said Mr Biden will take part in a tree-planting ceremony and ringing of the Peace Bell at the president’s official residence, Aras an Uachtarain.

Following that ceremony, he will meet again with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, whom Mr Biden recently hosted for St Patrick’s Day.

Mr Biden will address the Irish parliament and attend a banquet dinner at Dublin Castle on Thursday evening.

The president’s trip will conclude with a visit to Co Mayo, where he has also connected with distant cousins, on Friday.

He will tour the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock and visit the North Mayo Heritage and Genealogical Centre’s family history research unit.

He will then make a public speech at St Muredach’s Cathedral in Ballina.

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